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The Battle of Bexley Square

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Their proposed route would have led them past the labour exchange, but, as the leader of the procession wheeled to the right towards a side street, the policemen in front about faced and formed a cordon.

The column halted: drum and bell were silenced.

The organiser stepped forward desirous of an explanation, receiving scant courtesy of the inspector, who, pointing his stick down the road and staring elsewhere than at the man to whom his remarks were addressed, said: ‘Keep straight on.’…

The police farther down the line behaved strategically, breaking up the column into several small portions, preventing further augmentation of the crowd blocking the roadway higher up.

The Battle of Bexley Square took place on 1 October 1931,

shortly after the events described here by Walter Greenwood in Love on the Dole, when unemployed demonstrators were prevented from reaching Salford town hall to present a petition against the introduction of the means test – effectively a cut to the dole for many – by the coalition government. Protesters were attacked by police and dozens arrested.

The Working Class Movement Library, whose co-founder was arrested at the square and sentenced to five months hard labour in Strangeways, is planning to mark the 80th anniversary tomorrow by tweeting the events of the day in a ‘live’ reconstruction using the hash tag #BexleySquare. Austerity has bitten at the library recently; Salford City Council have cut their grant by a third, Hazel Blears MP has moved her constituency office out of the building, depriving the library of rental income, and a short term grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has come to an end.

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